For more than $300,000, Jim Hens bought the Montana Governor’s tag and took this incredible, 202-inch Missouri River Breaks bighorn in September. But Hens didn’t just fly in and execute a ram. He spent days scouting and years preparing for this bowhunt. His effort paid off as this ram has the potential to be a Pope and Young world record. It would be his third Pope and Young world-record sheep and it also makes him the first archer to break the 700 Club (taking the four North American sheep species and amassing at least 700 inches of horn).
The Governor’s bighorn sheep tag is auctioned off each year and it allows the owner to hunt in any legal area he chooses throughout the duration of the state’s sheep season. Almost all of the hunters who buy the tag head for the Missouri River Breaks, a series of rock outcroppings, bluffs, and plains carved out by the Missouri River. It is perhaps the best place in the world to kill a trophy bighorn. “It was really strange hunting these inverted mountains,” Hens said. “It’s like a mini Grand Canyon, I don’t know … that’s the best I can explain it.”
Hens’ hunt started three days before the season. He arrived at Chris Faber’s Bear Paw Hunts with his wife and kids. Hens spent the next few days hiking around with his family looking for sheep and other wildlife.
Hens would be hunting a mix of public land and private land owned by Faber. For guides, Hens recruited Willie Hettinger and Dustin Roe, two of the top sheep hunters in North America. He also had his friend Tyler Johnerson along on the hunt as well as two other experienced hunting buddies Chris and John. Hens had his hopes set on taking a ram with about 200 inches of horn. “If you can’t dream it, you can’t make it happen,” he said.
On the day before the season opened, a plane buzzed the area Hens and his crew had been scouting and scattered all of the rams they had been watching. “We basically went in blind on opening day,” Hens said.
Two days of hard hunting and glassing didn’t turn up any “shooter” rams (they were passing 180-inch and 190-inch rams consistently). On the morning of the third day, Hens and his guides glassed a ram that was worth a look. From about a mile away they watched a bighorn they nicknamed “Flare” feed and then bed down on a bluff.
The guides guessed the ram would go about 197 inches, but Hens wanted to make a stalk anyway. Because of the topography of the Breaks, they were easily able to close the distance, trekking across the top of the rim. When they got to about 100 yards of the edge of the rim, they slowed down and stalked in.
But the big ram heard them coming. Once they crested the edge of the bluff, Dustin spotted the ram at 22 yards, it was on its feet and broadside. But because of the angle, Hens couldn’t see it. The ram made a break for it, running parallel to the rim of the bluff. Hens ran along the edge of the bluff to get an angle for the shot and Tyler Johnerson gave loud mew to hopefully stop the bighorn.
The ram did stop and turn broadside at just over 80 yards. Hens drew, squeezed the trigger on his release, and watched his arrow disappear behind the ram’s shoulder. The bighorn ran 100 yards downhill, wobbled and then fell over dead. “I’ve taken a lot of criticism for an 80-yard shot. But, the reality is this: you could stalk within 40 yards of a world-record ram, but the bigger an animal gets the smarter it gets. If you want to hunt bigger animals you’re going to have to shoot at farther distances. I spend all summer every year practicing at 60 to 100 yards.”
With the bighorn down, the guides brought Hens’ wife and kids down for photos. Everyone was surprised to see it tape out at more than 202 inches. The standing Pope and Young world record is 199 5/8 inches. “It doesn’t even seem real,” Hens said. “It almost sounds comical when I tell people I could have three world records.”
Hens already holds archery records for Stone sheep and desert bighorn. It’s no secret that he spends a lot of money on hunts, and this fact has drawn envy and criticism from other hunters. But Hens argues that the money he spends goes to sheep conservation and only helps the sport. The money he dropped on the Governor’s tag allowed Montana to transport about 40 sheep from the overpopulated Wild Horse Island State Park to another range. The state also used the money to buy 300 acres of private property for sheep conservation. “They really do the right thing to preserve this resource and you can tell by looking at the Breaks,” Hens said.
Jim Hens shot this massive 202-inch bighorn in September in the Missouri River Breaks. It could be his third world record sheep with a bow.